Guardians Vol 3 is a beautiful and fitting farewell to not just the Guardians but also the ‘original’ legacy MCU
Trilogies are notoriously hard to conclude in a way that satisfies fans of a franchise. A trilogy that is part of a universe spanning more than 25 films is even harder to tie a bow in. But that’s what Director James Gunn has attempted to do as his parting gift to the Kevin Fiege and the Marvel Cinematic Universe as he switches full focus to ‘the other side’ in his new role as the Head of DC. So, does he succeed?
A resounding yes in my opinion. From their first big screen appearance, Guardians risked being seen as a flash in the pan gimmick, a one-off anomaly that simply helped progress the story of the more popular characters like Thor. But James Gunn masterfully managed to make these characters memorable, likeable, and important while carving out their own little section of the ever-expanding marvel universe.
Before I go further, one thing I will say is that this is a trilogy, designed to tie up long running story lines and character Arcs. While it might seem obvious, this is not a standalone movie. It is made very much in the context of the two films that have come before as well as the MCU as a whole. If you haven’t seen those films, there are many parts of the story that either won’t make sense to you or you won’t really care about.
As stated in my title, this is primarily Rocket Raccoons tale. While a great deal of time is committed to telling his origin story in flashbacks, present day Rocket is absent for most of the film due to a serious injury. Meaning if you don’t already know and love Rocket from the previous Guardians or Avengers movies, you won’t care as much or have the emotional investment in the character. You won’t understand why it’s so important they save him.
After Rocket (Bradley Cooper) sustains a serious near fatal injury during a battle with new character Adam Warlock (Will Poulter), the Guardians must set out on a planet hoping quest to get the codes needed to save his life. Guardians Captain Peter Quill aka Star Lord (Chris Pratt) is still broken from the loss of his love Gamora (Zoe Saldana) so Nebula (Karen Gillan) surprisingly steps up as a de facto leader, taking charge and holding the team together while Peter gets his head straight.
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As you would expect, on this mission they meet new characters, new worlds and of course meet a new big baddie: The High Evolutionary played by Chukwudi Iwuji, whose ambition is not to destroy the universe but to perfect it through science and experimentation. The team discover he was Rockets creator and has the key to saving him. The High Evolutionary is obsessed with reclaiming his ‘experiment’ Rocket, as his unexplained intelligence is key to creating a perfect world.
James Gunn walked a very tight rope balancing what we have come to know and love about the characters with trying to show they have matured over the years. So, there are less laughs and gags overall with more time given to characters development and self-revelation. There is definitely a tone shift which we are prepared for almost the second the film starts with Rocket singing Radiohead’s’ ‘Creep’, – a fantastic song that somehow always lowers my mood.
Music has always been an important part of the Guardians franchise with Gunn showcasing his personal tastes through Peter Quill’s playlist. This time round things are more eclectic than just classics from the fifties & sixties with a playlist that highlights a few more decades.
Guardians of the Galaxy is less comedy and more of a ‘comedy drama’. Depending on your level of investment in these characters, there are moments designed to tug at your heart strings and give you all ‘the feels’. That isn’t to say its light on action, not at all. There are some decent set pieces, big explosions, and some uber cool and stylish moments. Just this time round, it is better balanced with a few more emotional ties.
Uncharacteristically for James Gunn, some of the larger scale action was a bit quick and choppy, meaning it wasn’t always clear what was going on. The set designs were solid and felt bright yet ‘lived in’. Alien creatures and monsters always felt more at home in this franchise due to it being about exploring new worlds, like Star Trek. You expect to come across strange looking creatures, and here it’s no different. Even the ridiculous ones like a carrot faced guard will have you saying ‘why not’ rather than this is silly.
Guardians of the Galaxy Vol 3 bravely sets out to achieve what no other Marvel franchise has been allowed to do so far – To End. And in that way, it’s a success. I’ve made no secret of the fact I’m not the biggest Guardians fan, so my review score is maybe a bit lower than someone who is heavily invested in these characters. But as someone who knows their stories, understands the characters, their individual motivations and how they got to this point, I really enjoyed it.
In a weird way, this seems like a conclusion not just for the Guardians but for the ‘original’ MCU as a whole. These characters come from the era of Robert Downey Jnrs Iron Man and Chris Evans Captain America. This felt like the last of the old guard stepping down.
This movie serves as a satisfactory swan song for these much-loved characters with each hero concluding arcs that began many years ago. Unfortunately, the very end credit indicating one of the characters will return slightly dampened what I believe the director was going for. But as for James Gunn and his original Guardians, he has given them a fitting send off into ‘the forever’ and for now at least, they leave with a legacy intact and their heads held high.
Guardians of the Galaxy Vol 3 is in theatres Friday May 5th. Watch the trailer here